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RTK1 vs. Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course

#1
How does Heisig's Remembering the Kanji Vol. 1 compare with Andrew Scott Conning's Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course?

Which book do you think is better and more important, and why?

Which book should be read first?

Thanks Smile
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#2
Heisig's book was first published nearly 40 years ago whereas Conning's is more recent (2013). Looking at the excerpts on Amazon Conning acknowledges the earlier work and seems to have been influenced by it to some extent.

If I were learning alone, just from a textbook, I might plump for Conning now. Heisig does have the advantage of associated software though, and of course the mnemonic ideas of thousands of users on this website.

I have only seen the selections from Conning's book that are available on Amazon. Unfortunately the kanji examples given are nearly all simple ones from the start of the book and this doesn't show how well his methods work in general.

"Which book should be read first?" – Do one or the other (or neither) but not both as they cover similar ground.
Edited: 2016-07-30, 8:46 pm
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#3
Didn't even know about KKLC all that much till some guy asked me to include in my Memrise "Suggested Guide for Japanese Literacy" course series. It was strange cause he literally said that KKLC is the accepted standard and said it in a way as if there's no discussion needed on the subject. I looked into it and it seemed to be a small group of guys that just want to push this book. No big deal considering how much I push RTK. I offered suggestions to the guy about how to make a Memrise course (basically, 2k1KO kanji in KKLC order) then linked to it as an option for users.

Anyway I checked KKLC out and it seemed like any other Kanji reference book, just with added story mnemonics and a somewhat structured ordering of characters. Seems they like the idea that you have a book that also offers pronunciations and example words. Sort of ignores what Heisig was trying to get across about dividing and conquering. Not sure if the stories make use the benefit of consistent primitives like Heisig does either.

Basically, I recommend RTK as it has one use then you can ignore it. You'll likely not have to worry about kanji reference book once you get into grammar and vocabulary, especially if you add on Rikaikun or have any of dozens of kanji reference sites.
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#4
Basically agree with Nukemarine. I took a look through the introduction on the "look inside" pages, and it basically seems to be a 'dumbed down' and less effective version of Heisig. With one caveat: sometimes people don't have a good imagination, or for some reason Heisig's method doesn't really gel with their particular learning style. So, I would say, give Heisig a go first, afterall, this site's flashcard system is free, and there's probably a copy at you local library which you can borrow to read the introduction, and if it doesn't feel like it's for you, try the Kodansha one.
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#5
(2016-07-26, 4:52 am)ktcgx Wrote: there's probably a copy at you local library which you can borrow to read the introduction

You can also see the first 120 pages or so at the official website.
Edited: 2016-07-30, 8:48 pm
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#6
It's not so easy to reply. KLC is so under the influence of RTK and flexible that it can be seen as an improvement or a modern RTK!

In a small note, this website can be used for any book that you will choose or not, so make your choice in peace taking in consideration your kind of memory and type of learner. We're not equals, so what works for one can not works for another!
Please, go to your bookstore and take a few minutes checking the books before making a final choice.
Now, in my case, I'm following Nukemarine's guide on Memrise, but I have adapted it to my KLC book (even before the new KLC links) and it follows 2k1KO order.. and I still check this website if something really refuses to go in long term memory!
KLC method, let's you free to look for any personal mnemonic stories if needed. It's very flexible. Just keep in mind to keep the correct keywords/graphemes/primitives. ^^

RTK
  • Method:
Each kanji has an unique keyword. A kanji can be in itself a primitive or be composed of several primitives. A primitive can be or not one of the traditional radicals. A story is then used to recall the kanji based on those primitives and the keyword.
  • Pros:
• your memory has been affected with 1 kanji=1 keyword, so kanji are less confusing.
• you learn step by step: kanji in book 1, readings in book 2 and more kanji in book 3.
• you have this website and several SRS decks available around the net mainly on anki and memrise, so it's easy to find a good story.
•kanji are separated by lessons.
  • Cons:
• some keywords can be obscure, so it can be a nightmare if English isn't your native language! 
• the choice of the keywords by Heisig is very rigid, because of his system 1 kanji=1 keyword, so sometimes he took the freedom to add a keyword far from any usage in meaning in any Japanese vocabulary!!! You will need to change the keywords sometimes to adapt it to your vocabulary learning journey when you need hints.
•No introduction of the readings till book 2
•No introduction to proper Japanese vocabulary
•Most frequent kanji aren't always the first learned 
•You need to recall past stroke order primitives for the full stroke order of complex kanji

KLC
  • Method:
Each kanji has one or several keywords written in capitalized cases, which can have lower cases words added for the sense to help you to understand the proper meaning and to not confuse similar keywords. You don't need to learn the lower cases words. 
Each kanji has its most usual readings listed and a didactic vocabulary list. You are not asked to learn the readings per se, just to compare it to others kanji using the same graphemes and notice that some have the same on-yomi readings. A list of 550 characters with regular on-yomi have been added in appendix. 
Each kanji has an annotation to tell you how to recall it. It can be based on visual memory, stories, etymology, semantic analysis, graphemes etc... Conning takes a pragmatic approach and adapts it to each character.
Concerning the didactic vocabulary list, it's a n+1 list. By that I mean, that each vocabulary contents only kanji already introduced plus the new one. You're only asked to memorize at least one vocabulary word for each kanji. The best will be to learn the suggested words which corresponds to important readings or meanings.
  • Pros:
• Each keyword is linked to a proper usage of the character in Japanese. For additional senses or for others details on a kanji, each kanji has an entry number in the Kodansha kanji's Learners dictionary available as a paper or an application in Android (I don't know for iPhone, please check it).
• You learn vocabulary at the same time which can help you reinforce your memory 
• You can use this book only using RTK method, ignoring any reading or vocabulary. 
• all the kanji have a way to recall them! ^^
• there's an Anki deck around that you could customize to your needs and several courses on Memrise to learn the kanji.
• All the kanji have the stroke order

  • Cons:
• Users can be lost when they see kanji after kanji page after page with no separations telling them, how many characters to learn each time. You need to organize your study by yourself. 
 •If something refuses to stick in your memory, you'll need to do as in Heisig's book create your own mnemonic. 
•Most frequent kanji aren't always the first learned
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#7
I have this book. I can vouch that the mnemonics are strong and it uses primitives consistently for the most part, though in some places it makes exceptions.

You could say it definitely "improves" on RTK, but for the most part I would say they are just different. RTK goes for "divide and conquer" and focuses on teaching you how to write, then you deal with readings in vol. 2, and learn vocabulary separately. KKLC eschews "divide and conquer" and teaches you kanji in the context of words (it gives words made up of the kanji you have learned up to that stage). Because RTK focuses on writing, it boils every kanji down to one unique keyword even if that keyword does not exactly match the real meaning in practice, and even if the kanji actually has multiple basic meanings (like 省 or 著). KKLC focuses instead on teaching you the actual meanings kanji have in practice, showing multiple meanings for kanji that have them, and illustrating the different meanings with different example words.

The other thing is that, as was mentioned above, you also have to factor in what you can get from the RTK community, including the crowdsourced mnemonics. I don't think the KKLC has anything similar as far as an online support community.

Whatever the new book has achieved, I personally believe that there is still a lot to be said for RTK. RTK has its quirks and limitations, but reading it can be enjoyable and fruitful. As someone said, even the KKLC gives credit to it.

Ultimately you have to use one approach or the other, because they are different and both cover the same thing. Even if you go for KKLC, I would still get RTK and see what it's all about, and take advantage of what this online RTK community can give you. Knowing how RTK works will make it easier for you to evaluate KKLC.
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#8
I googled it and found this review:

http://redbluefire.com/blog/how-i-study-japanese-kanji/

The guy seems like he's still in the intermediate stages, so he's not exactly an expert reviewer. The post is from April 20, so he probably knows more now. You could message him to see what his experience has been like, since he seems to have used both RTK and KKLC. 

I couldn't find any real professional reviews on google scholar.
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#9
(2016-07-27, 10:33 am)Furikake Wrote: The guy seems like he's still in the intermediate stages, so he's not exactly an expert reviewer.

He does seem pretty advanced at least in terms of his experience with trying different kanji methods. But you're right that he still falls into the category of fellow learner rather than expert.
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#10
It looks like there's a good chunk of KLC visible on Amazon "Look Inside", or input your zip code to see if it's at a local library:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/kodansha-k.../829743891
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#11
Finally found a more substantial review:

http://kanjijourney.weebly.com/uncut-rev...tools.html

They mostly criticize RTK, too much in my opinion. Yes, RTK is focused on writing, but this is not just for the sake of actually writing, as the reviewer seems to think. 

They recommend Seeley & Henshall for the etymologies, but have some interesting criticisms of it. The heaviest criticism is on the pictographic books like Kanji Pictographix.
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#12
I'd go with KLC if I started over. The mnemonics from Heisig were helpful in the beginning (and some still are needed, but they are now few). Now when I'm testing writing kanji I just think "okay this thing, and then this thing on the right side for some reason" rather than the mnemonics, and I still have a good success rate. I've just gotten much better at writing from visual memory because I've been reading more and known the kanji longer, so that mnemonics are deadweight usually. I think if you started out with KLC you'll reach the same end result, but also know how to write more kanji compounds.
Edited: 2016-08-10, 4:43 am
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#13
Well, the mneumonics are supposed to fall away eventually, so it's fine if you don't exactly remember why something is supposed to be on one side or the other as long as you consistently remember it that way.
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#14
I worked through a few hundred in RTK1 before switching to KLC, and found both to be excellent books. Each has given me countless hours of joy cramming kanji into my head. Overall I prefer KLC, but if RTK provided stories for all kanji it would be about even.

My ideal book would be to start with KLC, but use RTK's philosophy of consistent component meanings with strong visual stories built on them. KLC deviates more than I'd like from these principles, and those are the kanji I forget. Also I'd adjust the order to add a bit more emphasis on frequency, but it's not too big of a concern.

RTK is probably better if writing is a goal.

KLC especially shines if you already know quite a bit of Japanese, because you can see if the kanji you're learning matches words you know. (Like "is this the 'gen' from "genki?") That's one reason I switched, and also because I wanted stories for all the kanji.

BTW, I disagree with the idea in both books that you will learn all kanji, and therefore there's no strong reason to prioritize frequent/useful ones. KLC is much better from this regard, but still has some very common kanji numbered 1000-1800. At least he made it a consideration. This was another reason I switched, actually.

Other tips:
1. Definitely learn the meanings first, w/o worrying about Japanese reading or compound. RTK introduced this idea and it works. Can't recall if KLC says to do that. Sure, check if you already happen to know any of the usages but that's it. I see going through the whole book twice, once for meaning and once for reading/compounds (or doing so in groups of 500).
2. Read up on basic memorization techniques from the experts or at least watch the Ted Talk from the journalist who won the memory contest.
3. Use an SSRS program like Anki.
4. Find something to practice reading as soon as reasonable. E.g. the NHK Easy Japanese news or some children's books.
Edited: 2016-08-10, 1:25 pm
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#15
(2016-08-10, 12:33 pm)ejustice Wrote: I worked through a few hundred in RTK1 before switching to KLC, and found both to be excellent books. Each has given me countless hours of joy cramming kanji into my head. Overall I prefer KLC, but if RTK provided stories for all kanji it would be about even.
Some versions of RTK1 in languages other than English may do. At least the French one (Les kanji dans la tête, by Yves Maniette) has stories for all frames.
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#16
(2016-07-25, 9:51 pm)Katsuo Wrote: Heisig's book was first published nearly 40 years ago whereas Conning's is more recent (2013). Looking at the excerpts on Amazon Conning acknowledges the earlier work and seems to have been influenced by it to some extent.

If I were learning alone, just from a textbook, I might plump for Conning now. Heisig does have the advantage of associated software though, and of course the mnemonic ideas of thousands of users on this website.

I have only seen the selections from Conning's book that are available on Amazon. Unfortunately the kanji examples given are nearly all simple ones from the start of the book and this doesn't show how well his methods work in general.

"Which book should be read first?" – Do one or the other (or neither) but not both as they cover similar ground.
The stories from Kodansha's kanji is more traditional, and word associations are more practical than Hesig's rembering the kanji.  When you try to remember the meaning and stories first, what you are doing is bringing yourself at best closer to what the Chinese student of Japanese has, except that you can only recognize, whereas the Chinese student will have little difficulty in learning to write it even if they came from the simplified form to learning the Japanese form.
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#17
(2016-07-27, 5:32 pm)Sembei Wrote:
(2016-07-27, 10:33 am)Furikake Wrote: The guy seems like he's still in the intermediate stages, so he's not exactly an expert reviewer.

He does seem pretty advanced at least in terms of his experience with trying different kanji methods. But you're right that he still falls into the category of fellow learner rather than expert.

If you want an expert, just ask your ESL Japanese students. To them we are all just students of Kanji. They give us the pedestal when it comes to them learning English. Well when it comes to Japanese, we must let the tables turn. They learned to handwrite all which we only flip cards on. They learned all the radicals by name. When you aren't sure, just take your question and ask a real Japanese person.
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#18
(2016-08-14, 4:06 am)CANUCK Wrote:
(2016-07-27, 5:32 pm)Sembei Wrote:
(2016-07-27, 10:33 am)Furikake Wrote: The guy seems like he's still in the intermediate stages, so he's not exactly an expert reviewer.

He does seem pretty advanced at least in terms of his experience with trying different kanji methods. But you're right that he still falls into the category of fellow learner rather than expert.

If you want an expert, just ask your ESL Japanese students. To them we are all just students of Kanji. They give us the pedestal when it comes to them learning English. Well when it comes to Japanese, we must let the tables turn. They learned to handwrite all which we only flip cards on. They learned all the radicals by name. When you aren't sure, just take your question and ask a real Japanese person.

一般の日本人達はJLPTのN2ぐらいなので日本人達の方が分からない学問も沢山あります。その小学校生の学習問題だったら一般人に尋ねても大丈夫だと思いますが、JLPTのN1は日常生活で使わない部分が沢山あるので白人でもJLPTN1に合格した方達の方が詳しく問題を説明出来ると思います。日本人達の方が我々が問題に詰まる所を理解できない場合が良くあります。例えば、は、や、に、とか、の、などをしっかりと使いかたを説明することが出来ず、使い方が自然に使えるだけだと答えられる場合が良くあります。いくらその尋ねた人が真面目に日本語を出来ても、質問者は混乱したまま正確に学ぶことが出来ません。その為に我々外人同士で問題を筆談して問い合わせたいと思います。私も日本語は下手ですが、ここ迄大分苦労して勉強して来ました。While what we have learned might not seem to be much, we don't really need to be writing each other off saying that anyone who is not a native Japanese need not help each other with our Japanese language hurdles.  I have a lot of experience dealing with help, especially when dealing with particles or language expressions, that many Japanese people will simply correct my mistakes but are unable to tell me why it is wrong.  Telling me that it is intuitive for them and does little to help ME LEARN.  I would rather have someone who is not perfect themselves but are able to still explain why it is wrong so I can learn.  This is not a contest of who is better than who, but rather a question of how can we help each other.  My experience is that just asking a native speaker doesn't solve everything.  Otherwise, JET Programs would have us teaching as full teachers, and not as ALTs.  The Japanese English teacher might not have native English skills but are often better equipped to teach the structure of the English language better.  Likewise, we have learned Japanese through learning sentence structures systematically. Often the Japanese people are too polite to fix our mistakes, and as many of you know, the only people that will criticize your Japanese is other fellow gaijin.  I have never once being laughed at by a Japanese person with respects to my awkward Japanese.  I have had over 100 bashings from fellow gaijin.  Let us all have fun and be kind to each other and help one and other.
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#19
This whopping KLC Anki deck has been going around.

It's very well done.
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#20
(2016-08-29, 8:02 pm)HOW Wrote: This whopping KLC Anki deck has been going around.

It's very well done.

Whopping is right!  Do you know if there's anything smaller?
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#21
(2016-07-25, 4:25 pm)Kinetix Wrote: How does Heisig's Remembering the Kanji Vol. 1 compare with Andrew Scott Conning's Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course?

Which book do you think is better and more important, and why?

Which book should be read first?

Thanks Smile

I'm not gonna make a recommendation, because you're better off making that decision yourself, and I'm also not going to say anything about the quality of KKLC (because I never used it). But Heisig's method is effective at what it tries to do, I can testify to that. And I do have some things to say about both:

From looking at that Anki deck, it seems like KKLC is best suited for advanced learners (people who understand spoken Japanese, and would like to learn to read/write). And I know that Heisig's book is meant ONLY for beginners. Even the author says it, in the introduction.

So, if you're a beginner (and you wish to learn the writing system in parallel with the language), Heisig is a good option, because it's a manageable amount of content (if you study 3-4 hours/day, you can SRS through Heisig withing 6-8 weeks, and it doesn't try to also teach you the language, Kanji readings, etc....it just teaches you how to read and/or write the Kanji).

I can't imagine going through KKLC in its entirety, as a beginner. It just seems like the most painful possible way to attempt to learn a language, for a couple of reasons:

1. It's a massive volume of information. That goes against probably the most important principle of learning and motivation: keeping one's goals small and manageable, allowing oneself to be rewarded with frequent successes.

2. It would involve learning vocabulary in isolation. That's a bad idea, especially when it's almost 10,000 words.

That said, both those problems can be solved: 

1. You could cut the volume of information up into smaller pieces, and break up the grind with other materials in between the pieces, like Nuke's guide does with some other big blobs of materials (see post #3). That solves the motivation problem to some extent.

2. In parallel with learning the information in KKLC, you could SRS sentences with the same vocab in them. So every day, you go through let's say 10 Kanji and their corresponding vocab (I guess it would be 30-40 words), and you also go through 30-40 sentences that have that vocab. And then you add the whole thing to your SRS decks. (note: if you're technically inclined, Anki is versatile enough to allow you to find and set up your sentence deck semi-automatically...so it wouldn't be a huge workload).

So you can use KKLC as a beginner. Just not by itself.
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#22
To me, the main difference between the two is this: RTK1 loosely teaches you writing and presents you with a method that makes it hard to forget kanji. Then, you're expected to use it as a supplement to your main studies, or to supplement it with more information. RTK1 alone does not directly teach you anything you need to know to read japanese. It just makes one part of it easier.

KKLC, on the other hand, tries to teach people things they need to know to be able to read comfortably. At a hefty one-or-two main example vocabulary per kanji and more pieces of information per kanji than RTK1 gives you, I'm not going to cut any corners here; KKLC is full of information that it basically tells you to ignore, which is very unfriendly. This doesn't mean it's made for people who already know things about japanese. In fact, it's probably better for people who know nothing about japanese, because RTK exposes you to much less information. If and when a newcomer picks up RTK1 and nothing else (which DOES happen!) they will spend a lot of time on it thinking it's doing something for them that it's not. I've seen horror stories of people spending years on nothing but RTK, just to realize that the only thing they've got out of it is slightly better retention of learned vocabulary, and not much, for them in particular at least.

The KKLC deck is not a good representation of KKLC, because the deck has basically no formatting standards.

Someone posted this on 4chan, and it sums up the difference between the two pretty well, IMO: http://i.imgur.com/aaAf3pk.png

Keep in mind that edits out a *lot* of so-called bonus material from KKLC, which normally looks like this: http://i.imgur.com/vMFArs2.png

Yeah, I can see where the notion of unfriendliness comes from.

But, under the surface. KKLC contains everything RTK1 contains, but "better" (by its own volition): A well-ordered list of kanji needed for literacy, their general concept, and mnemonics with which to learn them; where the ordering at least reflects the need to present component characters before the characters in which they preside. But it goes further than RTK1: intentionally exposing learners to vocabulary against their will, and trying for a higher level of "showing useful kanji earlier" and "the mnemonics represent etymology as often as possible" than RTK1. Plus, explicit stroke direction for every single stroke of every single character, rather than just the stroke order of components and what order to write the components in.

KKLC's preface outlines "how to use the data in here", just like RTK1's preface does the same. You can't make an argument for or against KKLC based solely on its data. So here's a short summary of KKLC's preface, paraphrasing it: "This course's data tries to compromise on all the positive qualities of the other kanji learning systems that currently exist. As far as this data goes, use the mnemonics to remember the concepts associated with the kanji. You should be able to look at the kanji and think of what it generally means. You can, if you want to, learn to write the character or memorize vocabulary or readings, and data for that has been included. It might be a good idea to put that off until you can recognize the keywords somewhat well. Also, the vocabulary marked with circles is probably a good idea to look at, to help disambiguate the meaning of the keywords. Finally, don't not read, even it might be hard."

I'd say it's probably even a good idea to do RTK's method against KKLC's data instead of RTK's data. Of course, you guys have your own replacement for RTK's data, to some extent, but KKLC still has different keywords and character order. In particular, it's not so focused on recall training, so it can have multiple keywords per kanji to handle variant meanings.
Edited: 2016-09-17, 8:53 pm
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#23
(2016-09-17, 8:48 pm)wareya Wrote: To me, the main difference between the two is this: RTK1 loosely teaches you writing and presents you with a method that makes it hard to forget kanji.



KKLC, on the other hand, tries to teach people things they need to know to be able to read comfortably.



I'd say it's probably even a good idea to do RTK's method against KKLC's data instead of RTK's data. Of course, you guys have your own replacement for RTK's data, to some extent, but KKLC still has different keywords and character order. In particular, it's not so focused on recall training, so it can have multiple keywords per kanji to handle variant meanings.

wareya: Thanks for your excellent post. I've written up my own thoughts for other early beginners. For background, I got RTK 1 in Aug 2014 and KKLC in Nov 2014. I recently purchased CosCom's Kanji Odyssey 2001 (which has its own list of 2300 kanji).

My efforts have been irregular and I still haven't completed the 2200 RTK kanji (I've mastered about ⅗) and I have not used my KKLC book. However, I greatly enjoy kanji and I aim eventually to master at least the 2965 〄 X 0208 level 1 characters (the 漢検 pre-1 kanji).

In retrospect, KKLC is the best single all-around resource, since it has more thoroughly articulated stories for all its kanji and gives the beginner vocab exposure (even if retention is low). In practice, I stayed with RTK since I got it first and I got comfortable (in a rut) with its method, never beginning the real work of learning to comprehend Japanese.

I think beginners should start with kanji writings, but transition to vocab uptake reasonably quickly. Developing an ear for the spoken language is also important; unfortunately, KKLC lacks a source for audio examples.

Here's the approach I've settled on:
  1. Learn a manageable set of kanji writings, ideally using the 200 CosCom Essential Kanji or the 555 kanji from KO2001 book 1 (for the ambitious). If following Heisig's method, include kanji that are primitive dependencies for others in the list. Continue SRSing these kanji writings but pause adding new kanji.
  2. Learn Japanese vocabulary limited to the learned kanji writings. If you have KO2001, you can chunk vocab by their chapter groupings; each has 15 or 20 kanji. For KKLC you can use the included vocab words, filtering out unseen kanji. Include pronunciation audio on the back of your SRS vocab cards.
  3. Repeat from step 1 with the next set of kanji.
NB: Item 1 came from Nukemarine's RTK lite.

I find the KO2001 resources to be excellent. The sentences included with each kanji frame let you practice basic grammar as you work through the vocabulary list (would help to have a tutor).
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#24
Hmmm, I dunno, to me RTK still seems the most efficient route if your goal is fluency. But everyone prefers slightly different things when studying.
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#25
So I didn't use RTK to learn Kanji, I used Kanji ABC, which was published a bit after RTK.  The main difference is that Kanji ABC used key words that were more in line with the real meaning of the kanji.  I mainly chose KABC because I had already passed N2 before I decided to re-double my efforts in learning kanji.  It worked really well for me.

I just took a look at the KLC anki deck from above.  I compared it to the Kanji ABC deck that I made myself, and there is quite a lot of overlap between the keywords chosen by KLC and the keywords chosen by Kanji ABC.  Since Kanji ABC has been out of print for quite a while, maybe it's not a problem, but I hope the author of KLC acknowledges the work done on Kanji ABC if they did refer to that work.

When people ask me for advice I usually tell them to do RTK if they are beginners (know <500 kanji), and I tell them to do Kanji ABC (I guess now I will point them to KLC since it's a lot easier to find) if they know 500-1000 kanji.
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